Skills in sight: how social media affordances increase network awareness #ECKM2017

Iris Buunk

Presenter Iris Buunk

The 18th European Conference on Knowledge Management (#ECKM2017) takes place this year in Barcelona at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC) on 7th and 8th September. ECKM is the longest running academic conference on knowledge management in Europe, attended by academics and practitioners from 40+ countries eager to engage in the packed conference programme.

With my colleagues Iris Buunk and Dr Colin F Smith, I am co-author of one of the papers to be presented at the conference: ‘Skills in sight: how social media affordances increase network awareness’.

Supported by a John Campbell Trust travel bursary, Iris will be travelling to Barcelona to deliver our presentation. In addition, as part of her visit to Spain she plans to meet other researchers who share her interests in Knowledge Management at the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management (ESADE), and in Library and Information Science at the Faculty of Library and Information Science at the Univesitat de Barcelona.

The abstract of the paper is provided below. The full paper is currently in press for publication in the conference proceedings following the event.

Abstract of ‘Skills in sight: how social media affordances increase network awareness’ by Iris Buunk, Hazel Hall and Colin F Smith

The discussion in this paper derives from an analysis of data from twenty interviews conducted with members of an online knowledge sharing platform between October 2016 and February 2017. The empirical work is part of a larger doctoral study that investigates tacit knowledge sharing, online platforms and social media use within the public sector in Scotland. These are themes that, to date, have been under-explored by researchers. The work reported in this paper is a contribution that addresses one of the aims of the larger study in that it examines the extent to which social media afford new capabilities in the sharing of tacit knowledge.

The methodological approach deployed for the larger study uses both quantitative and qualitative methods (Buunk, Hall & Smith, 2016). The sample approached to participate in the interviews was identified from survey responses gathered in late summer 2016. The sampling strategy chosen was based on criterion sampling. This is a form of purposive sampling commonly used in qualitative studies (Palys, 2012). As a result, only heavy users of social media tools were selected from the survey returns for invitation to interview.

Prior work suggests that the visibility of individuals’ competencies can enrich “knowledge awareness” (Cooke & Hall, 2013). In addition, when social interactions are facilitated publicly on an online platform, awareness of these enhances opportunities for knowledge transfer (Leonardi & Meyer, 2015). The preliminary findings from the analysis of the interview data gathered for this study suggest that online platform and social media affordances increase network awareness and – as a consequence – the skills of individuals are rendered more visible. Some interviewees made this explicit by underlining this positive outcome of sharing details of their expertise online.

Skills belong to the technical dimension of tacit knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Panahi, Watson & Partridge 2013). Thus, it can be argued that when online platforms and social media offer the affordance of enhancing skills’ visibility (for example through making it possible for network members to see social interactions within a network, and understand network shape) they bring new capabilities to the facilitation of tacit knowledge sharing.

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